national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014

On The Train Home

Varun Nayar  • 
Grinnell College

1944: Badi Nani packs her children
into four decrepit navy-blue duffle
bags strapped to a train running
down from Karachi to Dilli.


The bed-sheet sky holds dry, white
stains on its body, like the clouds
that lived there grew up. Families
of bare feet make loud, stinging
claps onto the platform. The
train screams and begins to
move, both forward and away.


The disappearing train is swallowed
by a now even larger sky. Badi Nani
holds her heart in her throat, cries
into her dupatta, never stops.


70 years later, grandmother floats
soundlessly in her sari and kisses
my forehead. I kiss her too. A warm
bead of sweat washes over a thin
mark on her cheek—right where they
threw her off the train in Dilli.


No one here is done returning.